January 4, 2014

​Survey: Views on Evolution Driven by Religion More Than Education

BY SARAH PULLIAM BAILEY ©2013 Religion News Service

As evolution remains a contentious issue
for many public schools, a new survey suggests that views on the question are
driven by Americans’ religious affiliation more than their level of education.

Overall, six in 10 Americans say that
humans have evolved over time, while one-third reject the idea of human
evolution, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center. The
one-third of Americans who reject human evolution has remained mostly unchanged
since a 2009 Pew survey.

About one in four American adults say
that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of
creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”

While education matters, the new analysis
suggests that religion appears to have more influence than level of education
on evolution. The 21-point difference between college graduates and high school
graduates who believe in evolution, for example, is less stark than the
49-point difference between mainline Protestants and evangelicals.

Evangelicals are four times as likely to
reject human evolution as mainline Protestants, with 64 percent of evangelicals
saying that “humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of
time.” Half of black Protestants say humans have not evolved, compared to 15
percent of white mainline Protestants who share the same opinion.

Those with more years of formal education
are more likely than those with less education to say that humans and animals
have evolved over time. Seventy-two percent of college graduates say humans
have evolved over time, compared with 51 percent of high school graduates who
say the same thing.

The gap between Republicans and Democrats
on belief on human evolution has grown by 10 points since 2009, with 43 percent
of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats saying humans have evolved over

Even those who hold views on evolution
differ in how it may have happened. The belief that evolution occurred as a
natural process (not necessarily one guided by God) is still a minority view.
At 57 percent, only people who have no religious affiliation hold a majority
view that says humans evolved due to natural processes.

Among those who express a belief in human
evolution, just 32 percent of them take the view that evolution is “due to
natural processes such as natural selection.” For Protestants who say that
humans have evolved over time, the group is divided over whether evolution is
due to natural processes or whether it was guided by a supreme being (36
percent each).

Meanwhile, the Creation Museum in
Kentucky that promotes a literal reading of the Bible that God created the
earth in six days will begin offering free admission to children in 2014.
Seeking a wider audience, the museum rolled out displays this year that contain
no religious messages as total attendance since the museum’s 2007 opening approached
about 2 million.